The Celebration (Festen) (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Celebration (Festen)1998

The Celebration (Festen) (1998)



Critic Consensus: As sharp and ruthless as the family dynamic that powers its plot, The Celebration blends tragedy and comedy to brilliant effect.

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Movie Info

It's summertime in Denmark, and at the Great House a celebration is about to begin: Helge Klingenfeldt, patriarch and lord of the manor, is turning sixty. Invitations have been issued, the seating plan drawn up, and now the guests' cars are pulling into the drive up to the entrance: friends, relatives, and of course, the patriarch's next of kin: Elsa, his wonderful wife, and their three grown-up children, Christian, Michael, and Helene. The head of the family is to be fêted in a way nobody will ever forget.

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Critic Reviews for The Celebration (Festen)

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (11)

There's no denying that some of the Dogme strictures inject urgency and surprise into what could have been a tediously static affair.

September 22, 2020 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

I'll be thinking about this movie for a long time to come.

September 22, 2020 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A funny, volatile, visually dynamic story about the unraveling of one extended family during the course of a patriarchal 60th-birthday dinner.

September 7, 2011 | Rating: A-

The more this film's results are measured against its rhetoric, the more callow and unsatisfying it seems.

October 18, 2008 | Full Review…

An assured, admirably abrasive little movie which never outstays its welcome.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

The Celebration rips apart the placid facade of a familiar subject, leaving its audience stunned. As difficult as the film can at times be, the patient viewer will be rewarded.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Celebration (Festen)

The first film of the Dogme 95 movement is this riveting - and remarkably well put together - amalgam of hilarious farce and devastating family drama, where the dirty laundry is washed in an extremely revealing criticism of a bourgeoisie trying to maintain its status quo.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


This was the first film in the Dogme 95 film movement, which relied on a lack of technology in order to create films without special effects, and returned creative control to the directors over the studios. Vinterberg and von Trier are the most famous of those in the movement, and this film is a very good example of a story that relies on complex, emotionally dense characters to further plot. A family gathers, relying on tradition and family values to stay strong in the face of their daughter's suicide. Christian (Thomsen) reveals a horrible secret from his childhood and the rest of the film revolves around how the family handles this information, and what forms of denial everyone takes on. It's a film that speaks about tradition, about abuse, and about the way we process information when it concerns our own families. Christian's anger is so real, his grief at the death of his sister so vivid, that it's very difficult to watch. The reality of what someone you love has done, is an issue that everyone grapples with, and here it's handled poignantly. Vinterberg tells a story that is rife in conflict and familiar tyranny, and he does so with all the realism and irony of a confessional.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Simple, stripped-down film by Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg, made under the Dogme 95 manifesto which, among other things, promotes shooting with a handheld camera while restricting the use of artificial lighting. The realistic, almost home-video style and look of the film makes it feel natural, organic, unrehearsed. Having seen a stage adaptation a few years ago, the film's main revelation did not come as a shock to me, but it wasn't any less devastating, thanks in great part to Ulrich Thomsen's work, a restrained performance that stands out even more when compared to some of his costars' overacting.

Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda
Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda

Super Reviewer

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